Concept101: Hidden in Detail

At this point, you're probably beginning to get an idea of how much work goes into a single character or piece, but I haven't talked a lot about artists that specifically do textures or environments. And when it comes to art, there's an artist for everything!

Everyday this month, I'm offering a new Concept101 post with new art, new sources, and a new look at the concept process. On the first day (Preceding Darkness and Death), I talked about how and where KingsIsle went looking for artists, and showed Xavier Garcia's Valencia art test, and planted seeds about a past or future Valencia.

The second day (Red Hair and Painted Shields), I talked about textures and building 3D models. I discussed layering and texture mapping, as well as the creative freedom that 3D artists have, and showed some of Isaac Oster's work.

Yesterday (Complexity by Design), I continued with 3D models, and talked about vector vs. raster images, dynamic shadowing, and display modes in programs used by the artists. I also showed some of the original models of Ambrose and Greyrose.

What You See...

You quickly learn, in the art business, that absolutely everything in-game starts with art. And it isn't just the non-player characters (NPCs) and enemies that need concepts. Plants, trees, rocks, everything... ok, so maybe not rocks, but it all has to be carefully planned!

You don't get environments like these by throwing a few textures into a basic 3D area. It used to be easier with Dragonspyre, when each location was a road with one centerpiece. For the most part, the textures and new enemies were the toughest part. But, when Grizzleheim and Celestia were approved for entirely unique locations (which is probably why they ended up taking so long), everything started to change.

...Is What You Get Is A Lot More Work Than You'd Expect

Don Hogan is one of the environment artists for KingsIsle who worked on the Grizzleheim and Wintertusk expansions. He shares on his site about how an area is as much about the design as the art involved in it.

These environments are in shown in what is called vertex lighting. As you can see, they're part of the area pictured above to the right in Grizzleheim. When designing an area, the artists and designers have to keep in mind that battle circles and sigils can be placed in a number of specific parts of that location, and must design accordingly.

To me, the best  locations are the ones that don't look like they're created around battle circles. I felt like Grizzleheim and Wintertusk did a fair job at accomplishing that. The below image is both above areas combined with trees. Now imagine taking this, and doing textures for each and every plane.

Details, Details

Erik McKenney is a texture and 3D artist at KingsIsle. Below are some of his works. The bottom two squares on the left show a progressions of the dogfish statue. The four squares on the right are Skull Island ones, used largely in areas like the Ancient Ruins - you see building sides, stairs, and the ground. At first, you might not even recognize these as Pirate101 textures because you never pay that close of attention. But head to the Ancient Ruins and you'll quickly see.

The two top left squares are the curious ones. We've seen finished models for Krokotopia, and these are labelled Dr. Fate banners. Doctor Fate is actually a comic book character, but listen to what Wikipedia has to say.

In 1920, twelve year-old Kent Nelson accompanies his archaeologist father Sven on an expedition to the Valley of Ur in Mesopotamia. Kent opens the tomb of the ancient Egyptian wizard Nabu, releasing a poisonous gas which kills his father. Nabu takes pity on Kent and teaches him wizarding skills before giving him a mystical helmet, amulet and cloak. Nabu merges his spirit with the helmet, allowing him to possess Kent if he wears it. In 1940, Kent meets Inza Cramer and Wotan in Alexandria, Egypt on his way back to the United States. When he arrives in the United States, he begins a career fighting crime and supernatural evil as Doctor Fate

Sounds like Krokotopia to me.

Wait! There's More!

Like I mentioned, there's art for everything. Someone has to do the maps, the characters around the maps, the quest images, the NPC dialogue pictures, the snacks, the housing placement icons, etc.

To the left is a collaborating from Jake Williams, who is actually a 3D artist that does props, but he also created these things for both Wizard101 and Pirate101. The snacks shown there are actually only the ones for Azteca.. so there are plenty.

In the case of maps, those have to be drawn, too, then I imagine they go through some sort of calibration process with the actual locations. They also need labels, and if they're Wizard maps, Jeff Toney gets a hold of them and draws the classic characters and small scenes around the edges.

What goes into the concept process is really quite fascinating. It makes you think twice about complaining about the rate at which new content is released. Even new housing items take plenty of work...

Concept Credits

All of these concepts are created by the KingsIsle art team. Dave Greco is the Lead Concept Artist there, and shares many of his works on his blog, My Electronic Days. You can view it HERE. See more from KingsIsle Entertainment at

The screenshots and vertex lighting images were taken and created in part by Don Hogan, as well as the crafting station. Visit his site HERE. The textures and Sheep Farmer were created by Erik McKenney, whose site is HERE. Finally, the maps, snacks, and various items were created by 3D artist Jake Williams, HERE.


Don't forget to stick around for new information, art, and artists every day this month. Thanks for reading and see you in the Spiral!

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